Document 10465776

International Journal of Humanities and Social Science
Vol. 4, No. 8; June 2014
Egocentric Speech in the Works of Vygotsky and Piaget: Educational Implications
and Representations by Teachers
Bruna Assem Sasso
São Paulo State University (Universidade Estadual Paulista - UNESP)
Marília Campus
state of São Paulo (SP)
Brazil. Av. Hygino Muzzi Filho
737. Bairro Mirante. Marília
SP, Brazil
CEP 17525-000
Alessandra de Morais
Marília Campus – SP
Brazil. Av. Hygino Muzzi Filho
737. Bairro Mirante
Rua Santa Helena
909, casa E85
Marília, SP
CEP 17513-322
This paper presents an applied qualitative and quantitative study and seeks to understand egocentric speech
according to Vygotsky and Piaget and, through a literature review, the educational implications of Vygotsky and
Piaget’s ideas. Additionally, the representations of these ideas by fifteen teachers of basic education are
investigated. It is important to understand egocentric speech in Vygotsky and Piaget. Despite the differences in
how they conceive its nature, functions and implications, for both, egocentric speech is intrinsically linked to and
facilitates our understanding of child development. Regarding the representation of teachers who criticized
children who used egocentric language, when teachers established any negative consequences of such language,
they attributed it to the affective and moral aspects as well as to cognition. However, their approach was more
practically oriented than those found in the psychological theories addressed. Therefore, this study aids in
understanding the limits and scope of teacher-training courses.
Keywords: Egocentric Speech; Educational implications; Representations by Teachers; Genetic Psychology;
Cultural-Historical Psychology
1. Introduction
The researcher was present during the probationary period (2010-2012) of a Center for Early Childhood
Education in a municipality in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. This center served children from months old
(Nursery) to five years old (Pre-kindergarten II). Because the municipality was in a transitional period with
respect to the implementation of the nine-year elementary education program and certain working parents had no
one to care for their children, the center also served a number of children who were six years of age (the first
grade of elementary education). During a period of research at the center, the researcher, who was working 25
hours per week, observed that the children talked to themselves, particularly when they were resting. In addition,
these children spoke at a considerable volume. The children were reprehended for interfering with their
classmates. However, after all, what should one do in this situation? Reprehend the child or not?
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Could this type of reprimand “harm” their development? If so, how? On which theory could the researcher base
her future practice as a teacher, or as an intern? How should she position herself?
In fact, egocentric speech is a commonly observed phenomenon, particularly during early childhood education.
However, the topic is rarely addressed among teachers in the school setting or during teacher training. Therefore,
this paper aims to study aspects of egocentric speech in the work of Vygotsky and Piaget, who pioneered the study
of egocentric speech and are the primary authors on the subject. Specific attention will be paid to their
considerations of the psychogenesis and interrelations of thought and language and the educational implications
of egocentric language. In addition, this paper reviews the ideas of other theorists with respect to this topic. The
present study also aims to investigate the educational implications of reprehending such speech in the child and
the representations of teachers in this regard. Moreover, it seeks to understand and enhance our understanding of
human development and, above all, child development, while fostering a debate between two different schools of
thought: the genetic epistemology and psychology of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) and the cultural-historical
psychology of Lev S. Vygotsky (1896-1934). This approach is necessary and intended to be constructive.
However, it is hoped that this study may fill in the gaps in training courses and contribute to the development of a
pedagogical practice grounded on a solid theoretical foundation. The focus is not only teachers but also all those
who are involved in the educational process. The aim is to improve education, particularly early child education.
At the Conference of Psychology in 1929, Vygotsky (1896-1934), in collaboration with Luria, presented a critique
of the Piagetian idea of egocentric speech. Vygotsky based his critique on findings from Piaget himself. The
critique can be divided into three parts. The first part refers to Piaget’s overemphasis of the similarities between
egocentrism and autism. The second part involves the disagreement between Vygotsky and Piaget regarding
intellectual egocentrism. The third part refers to Piaget’s insufficient emphasis on the functional aspect of
egocentric speech. Regarding the third part, there are in fact important differences between Piaget and Vygotsky
with respect to the nature and functions of egocentric speech. These differences derive from the way in which the
two researchers consider the psychogenesis and interrelations of thought and language. Therefore, this study
intends to briefly explain the most important difference between these different positions and then examine and
discuss the educational implications of reprehending egocentric speech in children according to Piaget and
Vygotsky. However, this study does not aim to establish which theory is a more plausible explanation of
egocentric speech.
The language plays a key role in the development of thought, acting as a tool because, according to Vygotsky
(1934/2001, 1984), language provides through generalization and abstraction the concepts and forms used to
organize experiences that mediate between the subject and the object of knowledge. However, the use of language
supposes an internalization process. During this process, so-called “inner speech” gradually develops. Such
speech differs from normal (external) speech because it is a dialogue with oneself that assists the individual in his
or her higher psychological operations. Given that for Vygotsky the developmental path of thought and language
proceeds from the interpsychic to the intrapsychic, the child starts by using socialized speech as a means of social
communication and contact. Then, the child uses internalized speech, which serves as an instrument of thought.
Next, egocentric speech enters this process as a transitional element between the external and inner speech. This
phenomenon is external. However, it does not play a communicative role. Instead, it fulfills a personal function,
which accompanies the activity of the child and is linked to the needs of thought in planning sequences and in
problem solving.
The educational implications that are based on these assumptions are that the nature and function of egocentric
speech must be acknowledged by parents and teachers and should not be reprehended because it is a healthy,
adaptive manifestation that is aimed at solving problems and overcoming obstacles. If it is reprehended, the
cognitive performance of children could be inhibited and impaired.
Regarding the relationship between thought and language, from the Piagetian perspective, Piaget (1964/2006) and
Piaget and Inhelder (1966/2006) recognizes the role of language in the enrichment of cognitive instruments
because it is a system already developed socially. Nevertheless, he makes clear that the progress of
representational thought results from the semiotic function in general. In Piaget's theory, language also plays an
important role in social exchanges that succeed and favor socialization but do not precede it, which indicates a
path that leads from the individual to the social. In this context, egocentric speech is considered to be a transition
between the non-verbal individual mental states and socialized speech. Therefore, the coefficient of egocentric
speech decreases with social exchange and socialization.
International Journal of Humanities and Social Science
Vol. 4, No. 8; June 2014
Unlike for Vygotsky (1934/2001, 1984), for Piaget (1923/1999, 1945/1990), egocentric speech does not have a
direct cognitive usefulness because its nature is more related to the manifestation of the child's social egocentrism.
Therefore, this type of speech is observed by Piaget in games and other ludic activities, which are accompanied
particularly by deforming assimilation. Thus, the educational implications are invisible and not directly related to
intellectual dimensions. However, egocentric speech can reveal relevant aspects regarding the socialization states
of children and their interactions and moral development, which should be taken into consideration by educators.
Regarding the relationship between egocentric thought and egocentric speech, Piaget (1966) acknowledges that
both are distinct phenomena and that intellectual egocentricity transcends the social aspect. Thus, egocentric
thinking is not restricted to egocentric speech, which, in turn, is related to social egocentrism. However, this
phenomenon cannot be disregarded as unimportant to the recognition of the child’s logic. Additionally, Piaget
(1966) argues that there is no way to recognize intellectual egocentrism in the field of interpersonal relations and
the intellectual egocentrism that is expressed in language. By disregarding egocentric thinking in children,
Vygotsky does not acknowledge this phenomenon and its impact on the child’s psychological – cognitive and
moral – development or the phenomenon’s educational dimensions. Therefore, Piaget's criticism (1966) of
Vygotsky focuses on his optimism regarding the adaptive processes, while disregarding the relationship between
intellectual egocentrism and systematic error. This relationship results from egocentrism, and that represents one
of the largest obstacles to the coordination of perspectives, decentration and cooperation in children.
In addition to the educational and pedagogical consequences of these theoretical differences between Piaget and
Vygotsky, a number of more recent studies on the topic were analyzed. These studies present an expanded
understanding of egocentric speech and contributed importantly to recognizing the educational implications of
egocentric speech.
According to Rodríguez (2009), there is an increasing interest in the West in the cultural-historical theory
developed by Vygotsky, Leontiev and Luria and its important contributions to the fields of psychology and
education. Particularly in the context of the work of these three researchers – specifically, the role of egocentric
speech in the mediation of individual actions – the theory has been considered a relevant topic of research.
Aguiar (1998) notes the possibility of observing and understanding the inner language through egocentric
language because of the functional, structural and genetic similarities of the two languages. Andrada (2006) alerts
us to the descriptive nature of egocentric speech and its planning function, which expands its role as a problemsolving tool. Quast (2009a, 2009b) presents possibilities for analyzing egocentric speech that transcend the
observable and enable us to envisage the dialogue. Previously, egocentric speech was considered monological.
The different contexts and interlocutors who, although not physically present, were psychologically present.
Therefore, the external representation of internal dialogues, that can and should be recognized, is assigned to
egocentric speech.
Although certain authors do not explicitly describe the implications of the censorship or interruption of egocentric
speech, one can infer possible consequences of such acts by the value they assign language in the child
development process and of the functions assigned to egocentric speech. Regarding the former, Andresen (2005)
considers language to be the primary means (the crucial role) of fantasy and its functions, particularly during roleplay, and of the creation of meaning and fictitious plots and, thus, play in general. Pinho (2009), Pinho and Lima
(2010) and Cavaton (2010) represent within the second position. According to these researchers, the occurrence of
private speech in the presence of others favors the construction of not only individual knowledge but also
collective knowledge. Such speech performs the organizing and regulatory function of thought/language in the
child's activity. It enables the child to be directed towards the other as if there were a request for agreement from
the social other. Thus, the use of private speech appears in the search for understanding a task, in maintaining
focus, in the organization of reasoning and as a mutual self-regulatory strategy, that is, as a means to organize, test
and control verbal behavior and to expand cognitive spaces. In addition, private speech has an affective discharge
function. It minimizes anxiety and supports the continuation of the task.
Regarding the educational implications emphasized by studies on egocentric speech, the research of Azulay
(1995), Berk (2007) and Quast (2009a) stands out. This research represents an important effort in this direction
and describes not only the implications but also the interventions related to the subject. Generally, these studies
indicate that one should not reprehend a child's monologues. Such behavior is a healthy means to overcome
obstacles and acquire new skills.
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In addition, these studies emphasize the functionality that the body acquires not only in locomotion and emotional
expression but also in the thinking process. Thus, according to these authors, one should not interrupt the child
who is playing, talking or gesturing with toy or to oneself. Such behavior reveals a moment of thinking, i.e., the
generation of a decision-making process, which is a constituent and essential element of cognitive development.
In the analysis, the goal was to examine the representations of the teachers regarding egocentric speech in
children. Additionally, the study addresses the similarities of such ideas with Piaget and Vygotsky's theories and
the educational implications of reprehending such language in children in terms of these theories. However, it was
assumed that the representations of the teachers would be substantially more commonsensical than the theories of
Piaget and Vygotsky on egocentric speech. In addition, if a consequence were established for the act of
reprehending the child's egocentric speech, that consequence would relate only to cognition in distinction from the
moral field.
2. Material and Methods
Therefore, this paper is a component of an applied study. Its approach is characterized as qualitative and
quantitative because although it uses quantitative data (considering the frequency of categories and percentages),
the analysis of such data focuses on a qualitative dimension.
The study sought to enter the conceptual world of educators to understand how they interpreted egocentric speech,
which they frequently encounter in their professional lives. As a resource for field investigation, the social
representations theory was employed. This theory has occupied an important position in the scientific realm and is
commonly used as a theoretical and methodological framework for the interpretation of social phenomena.
According to Jodelet (2001), representations are created to interpret and adapt to the world. The representations
are created in a shared way. Thus, they are social and important in everyday life: “They guide us in the way of
naming and jointly defining the different aspects of daily reality, in order to interpret these issues, make decisions
and eventually position ourselves in a defensive way when facing them” (Jodelet, 2001, p. 17). Representations
are forms of socially produced and shared knowledge. They favor the construction of realities that are shared by
social groups, whose function is to make interpretations and stance-taking possible and to guide action. Jodelet
(2001) explains that social representations are a type of common-sense knowledge, which differs from scientific
knowledge. However, such knowledge is considered to be an authentic object of study because of its relevance in
society and because its clarification results in the understanding of cognitive and interactive processes. When
studying social representations, one must consider that the representation is always of something (an object) by
someone (a subject) and that the characteristics of both object and subject manifest themselves. There is a
relationship of substitution and interpretation in the act of representation that results from the subject's
construction and expression activity. This activity results in the consideration of the subject from different
viewpoints, which must be integrated: epistemic (cognitive processes), psychological (intrapsychic processes,
such as projections, identifications, motivations), social and collective (belonging, participation, groups,
ideologies). A representation is a form of knowledge that differs from other forms of knowledge. This knowledge
must be regarded as practical because it refers to the experience that produces it and can be used for acting on the
To investigate one of this study’s objectives, fieldwork was performed. The fieldwork consisted of a survey
administered to thirteen teachers, a director and education coordinator and an educational supervisor. All of the
participants had received initial training in pedagogy and teaching and were employed in early childhood or the
first two years of elementary education in public schools of a city in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. The number of
subjects (fifteen teachers in total) was based on Delval’s (2002) recommendations for studies using interviews and
qualitative analysis. Additionally, homogeneity was considered, whereby the diversity was not controlled with
respect to elements outside the selected group but according to internal differences related to the object of study.
According to Guerra (2010, p. 46), “if the study has a statute of analysis, many interviews will not be needed for
the 'sample' to reach a saturation point by homogenization”. The sample selection was made according to
convenience, i.e., based on the location of schools and the access of the researcher to teachers who satisfied the
previously described criteria related to training and activity in elementary education. In this way, the study sought
to identify the representations of egocentric speech by teachers to subsequently verify the proximity of these
representations to Piaget and Vygotsky’s theories on egocentric speech.
International Journal of Humanities and Social Science
Vol. 4, No. 8; June 2014
According to Jodelet (2001), when studying the contents of representation as a structured field, i.e., as previously
established representations, one first seeks to define the constituents (information, values, concepts, among
others) of the representations. The analysis is completed by the principle of coherence that structures the fields of
representation (sociocultural organizers, attitudes, normative models or cognitive schemes). The fields are
collected through questionnaires, interviews or surveys. Thus, a semi-structured interview was used to collect
The testimonies of the participants were examined using the content analysis technique, which was defined by
Bardin (2010). According to this technique, the material was not categorized a priori but as it emerged from the
content of the representations of the participants (Franco, 2008). Based on the identified categories, the
frequencies and percentages of the responses were calculated. These calculations had as parameters the total
number of participants (fifteen teachers) in relation to the number of those who presented the relevant category,
i.e., a category’s specific frequency. Because in most cases a participant’s statements fit more than one category,
the total percentage of categories that emerged from a single question exceeded 100%.
In addition, prior to the start of the data collection, this study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of
the institution at which the study was performed.
3. Results and Discussion
In addition to the reading and analysis of the research by Piaget and Vygotsky that addresses egocentric speech,
recent research by other authors on egocentric speech was examined. The goal was to enter the conceptual world
of educators to understand how they understand egocentric speech and its manifestation in the interactions of
children and to determine the educational implications of reprehending such language.
Fifteen teachers participated in the survey. The age of the participants ranged from 25 to 55 years. Four
participants (26.6%) were between 25 and 35 years old, five (33.3%) between 26 and 45 years old and six (40%)
between 46 and 55 years old. Most participants (13 participants, 86.6%) had undergraduate degrees in pedagogy,
three participants (20%) reported having completed higher educational degrees, and eight participants attended
some type of graduate program (53.3%). One participant (6.6%) had completed a Master's degree in Education
and was a PhD student in the same area. Eight (53.3%) participants attended courses leading to the Specific
Qualification for Teaching Secondary School. However, only two of them (13.3%) had completed this training.
Regarding the period of employment in education, nearly half of the participants (seven respondents, 46.6%)
reported working in this area for over 20 years. The employment period of the other participants ranged from less
than five to 20 years.
The educators were asked to state an opinion on the term egocentric speech. The responses were separated into 11
categories. The average number of categories per participant was 2.06. Of the 15 participants, six (40%) believed
egocentric speech referred to a child talking to him- or herself while playing or performing an activity (Category
1) or a verbal claim by the child of something for him- or herself (Category 2). For three participants (20%),
egocentric speech was “speech linked to the term egocentric” (Category 5). In Category 6, with a frequency equal
to two statements (13.3%), egocentric speech was related to selfishness. In Category 7, with the same frequency, a
child's egocentric speech was considered to be an instrument and expression of thought with the functions of
planning and organizing action. There was only one reference (6.6%) related to Category 8 (unable to explain to
the other, not speaking to the other) and to Category 9 (egocentric speech with a regulatory function in role play
as a mediator and the expression of internalized content in the relationship with others that denotes and extends
the abstraction ability of the child while playing). Category 10 (a person who speaks of everything to him- or
herself alone) and Category 11 (does not recognize the other when talking to him or her) also included only one
reference each.
Regarding Category 2 (when there is a claim by the child of something for him- or herself), this reference of the
educators addresses the occasions in which the purpose of expressing oneself orally only serves one's own needs
(e.g., according to Participant 7, “it is like this, it is a speech in the imperative”) or other forms of expressing
desires (e.g., according to Participant 11, crying and tantrums).
When asked if they recognized the manifestation of egocentric speech during the school routine, there was an
average of 1.26 categories per participant. Four participants (26.5%) failed to illustrate or describe everyday
school situations in which egocentric speech occurred (Category 1).
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Of the fifteen participants, three (20%) related egocentric speech to situations in which the child speaks when
playing alone (Category 2) (e.g., according to Participant 1, either when he or she is alone or, according to
Participant 11, when playing with other children) and when writing (Category 3). However, regarding writing, the
participants refer to egocentric speech not as an instrument but a “symptom”, although they consider the context
to be relevant to this phenomenon. Two statements (13.3%) related egocentric speech to speech and other forms of
expression in situations of dispute (Category 4) and when the child “wonders” alone, while remaining in his or her
own world (Category 5). With the same frequency (13.3%), two other participants identified egocentric speech as
language that is present in symbolic play (Category 7) as is used by children and adults (Category 6). The only
two participants who used Category 5 (when the child “wonders” alone, while remaining in his or her own world)
had no training in pedagogy. This category includes representations of egocentric speech as something
pathological to a degree necessitating a referral to a specialist when this phenomenon occurs.
The results showed, first, the difficulty of the teachers in recognizing egocentric speech in everyday school life. It
was primarily identified during playing time and when the child was alone, when it appeared as if the child was
speaking to him- or herself and about him- or herself (monologue and explicit egocentric speech) or during
disputes (implicit egocentric speech). Please note that “explicit egocentric speech” is understood here as an
instrument for oneself. More precisely, it is language not intended for speaking to the other, even in the presence
of the other. That is, when one ends up talking to oneself (“talking alone”), one talks to oneself as if the other was
internalized, i.e., talking with a necessary orientation toward the other without necessarily the presence of the
other. The child may be in dialog with those contexts, those situations, those activities or even those individuals
who are not necessarily physically present but are mentally present. The term “explicit egocentric speech” is used
because it is the first form of egocentric speech identified by Piaget (as “monologue”) and Vygotsky. That is, this
form of egocentric speech is the most “explicit” in their theories. In contrast, “implicit egocentric speech”
corresponds to language use in which the subject intends to talk to the other (communicate) but does not consider
the perspective of the interlocutor. Thus, the subject ends up talking “alone” or without being understood (i.e.,
ends up talking to him- or herself in the sense of not considering the viewpoint of others). Because this form of
egocentric speech was little considered or not at all (as in Vygotsky's theory), it was perceived as implicit in the
sense of subjective to the theory, particularly Piaget's theory.
Other manifestations of egocentric speech were also reported, e.g., in writing activities, in symbolic play, between
adults and between children. However, such reports were brief and without substantial explanation (except for one
participant, who demonstrated the recognition of such language in its different functions, modes of manifestation
and destination).
Thus, although the occurrence of egocentric speech during writing activities (Category 3) was recognized by the
teachers, there was no evidence that they understood the role that such speech could play when employed by the
child during this activity. Cavaton (2010) draws attention to this type of language during writing and observes that
children spelled a phoneme/grapheme in order to decipher the letter that should be used in the word or text that
they were writing. According to Cavaton, this procedure reveals that when the child seeks to write or copy a word,
the child talks to him- or herself in order to understand this mechanism in the phoneme/grapheme relation. The
question is whether the teachers are aware of the importance of this process for the child's performance and
Smolka (1993) reveals the importance and complexity of the elements that involve the manifestation of egocentric
speech in text production. That is, the child's vocalization throughout the activity has the characteristics of
egocentric speech in that the child speaks out loud for him- or herself or no listener in particular. Such
vocalization emphasizes that the child performs the activity around other individuals (e.g., a teacher, a researcher
and children). Theoretically, the presence of the other can be a significant factor in the occurrence of this type of
speech. In such speech, this structure is extended and does not exhibit the abbreviated or elliptical features that
would suggest atrophy, according to Piaget, or internalization, as proposed by Vygotsky. Under these
circumstances, the expanded character of egocentric speech displays segmentations and repetitions.
By considering the child's vocalization during the production of text to be egocentric speech and not simply
spelling or syllabification, Smolka (1993) establishes a dialogical perspective in the analysis in which the sound
emission appears as a social manifestation that consists of the statements of the others.
International Journal of Humanities and Social Science
Vol. 4, No. 8; June 2014
In certain situations, the child begins to write the words and needs to pronounce them differently, that is, as
objects of his or her attention and awareness. Thus, several attributes are assigned to speech: communicative,
regulatory and constitutive attributes as well as objectivation and reflection.
A overlapping of voices is heard, both in talking to oneself and in trying to say something through writing. This
overlapping denotes various ways of apprehending the discourse of others. The child plays many roles: reader,
writer, author and interlocutor. Additionally, during this process, the characteristics of egocentric speech and
writing suffer reversals. Speech that is directed toward oneself becomes extended and repeated, and writing
becomes abbreviated and condensed. The data invite the response that the functions (e.g., planning, monitoring,
drafting), the structures (e.g., extended or abbreviated) and the direction (toward oneself or the other) that are
recognizable in the discursive dynamics are not prerogatives of one form or another of language.
However, several authors (Smolka, 1993; Ferreira, 2000; Pinho, 2009; Pinho & Lima, 2010; Quast, 2009a, 2009b)
who align themselves with a more dialogical reading and challenge the dichotomous reference to external and
internal processes have examined the possible social nature of egocentric speech. In this study, only three teachers
noted egocentric speech in situations of interactions between children (Categories 6 and 7). This outcome
suggests that such language remains far from being considered part of communication. Even considering more
elementary communication possibilities, such as the collective monologue proposed by Piaget (1923/1999) or, as
Cavaton (2010) notes, that the egocentric speech can be directed to the social other (either the teacher or peers)
and trigger generating behaviors aimed at building knowledge in intersubjectivity, one realizes that these
dimensions are not included in the discourse of the teachers. In addition, although certain authors (Pinho, 2009;
Quast, 2009a) emphasize that there is an increased manifestation of egocentric speech when children are in
interaction situations, particularly without the regulatory presence of the adult, this aspect was not reported by the
In the representations by the educators, there is a recognition that egocentric speech is also used by adults
(Category 6). However, this use appears more in a Piagetian sense as primarily a manifestation of social
egocentrism (even if this distinction is not clear to the educators) than in the Vygotskian sense of the result of
internalization, i.e., that inner speech serves individual adaptation. According to Vygotsky (1934/2001), what
approximates the inner language of the adult to the child's egocentric language, which is primarily present in the
preschool period, are its functional aspects. Both are languages that are directed toward oneself, which distances
them from language used communicatively (social language), and both are structural and display a tendency
toward abbreviation. The proximity between the child's egocentric speech and the adult's inner speech signals the
transformation of the former into the latter throughout the development of the individual (ontogeny), which is
expressed during the schooling period by the decline in the coefficient of egocentric speech. That is, different
from Piaget’s interpretation, the intellectual function of egocentric speech reveals that it is not the “[...] a
reflection of the child’s egocentric thinking, but rather shows that under certain circumstances egocentric speech
is becoming an agent of realistic thinking” (Vigostky, 1934/2001, p. 59). It is necessary to remember that this
function of egocentric speech was acknowledged by Piaget without ignoring, however, the child’s egocentrism
(Piaget & Inhelder, 1966/2006).
Additionally, one must consider that there are scholars (Ferreira, 2000; Pinho, 2009; Quast, 2009a) who are
focused on the study of egocentric speech in adults, particularly in the context of foreign language. Despite having
as a reference the basic Vygostskian precepts, they also rely on other theorists, particularly Bakhtin (1929/1986),
to describe the difficulty of distinguishing private from social statements. Using the term “private speech”, these
authors emphasize the importance of the properties of cognitive and emotional regulation of this type of language
as well as its communication features, which relate to important implications and tools for teaching and learning a
foreign language. This view of egocentric speech differs significantly from the representations of the teachers.
When addressing egocentric speech in adults, they focused exclusively on the function of emotional relief and the
social manifestation of egocentrism.
Regarding the consequences of reprehending the egocentric speech, approximately 26.6% of the participants
(four) stated that there is no need to reprehend. According to 20% of the participants (three), if there is a
reprehension, its motives should be justified. For the remaining three participants, reprehending could cause major
conflicts, aggression in the child’s behavior or trauma (an affective implication). Additionally, there were
statements that related reprehending to cognitive implications, such as “it would be clipping the child's
imagination” (Participant 10) or “you're breaking that thought of the child” (Participant 12).
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Some participants believed that there were no implications: “No, no... It could not have implications. Because the
child would not understand, he or she would not understand. So, it will not have any implications. [...] No
trauma.” (Participant 15, 42 years old)
Moreover, although Participant 15 had used the first view (in which there would be no need to reprehend), she
associated the teacher's attitude with this view. She awarded even greater emphasis on “teaching” and the need “to
set an example”. Here, she was approximating herself to cultural-historical psychology, in which role of the
teacher (the mediator) is essential for the acquisition of knowledge by the child. Such a view can reinforce, even
implicitly, the issue of the child’s egocentric speech as a personal tool in the decentration of the child, this time
from the perspective of genetic psychology.
This attitude requires a reference to the study by Cavaton (2010), which can be considered to be original because
it reiterates the role of organization, the regulation of thought and egocentric speech in the child's activity. In
addition, the study emphasized the possibility that this type of language is directed toward the social other, as if
somehow there was a request for his or her agreement, which lends prominence to the eliciting function of
communicative speech and the construction of knowledge in the inter-psychological relationship.
Only one educator (6.6%) stated that there could be two implications if the teacher did not recognize (even as a
result of misunderstanding) that egocentric speech enriches the child’s imagination and thinking and “disturbed”
the child while playing. The first implication is that by interrupting the playing activity or simply leaving the child
while saying “are you silly?” or “what do you mean?”, the child could stop the activity or end up impoverishing it
(cognitive). The second implication, which results from the former, would be that the child would not invite the
teacher to play anymore (affective).
In addition to the educational and pedagogical consequences of the theoretical differences between Vygotsky and
Piaget reviewed in this study, the more recent analyzed studies enabled the expansion of our understanding of
egocentric speech and contributes importantly to the educational implications of this understanding. Thus,
although the teachers identified cognitive, social (moral) and affective implications, they did not recognize the
wealth of implications identified in the literature review because they do not fully understand the functions of
egocentric speech as well as its genesis and structure (whether from the perspective of Piaget, Vygotsky or another
From the perspective of the teacher or researcher, private speech not only facilitates the identification of the
difficulties faced by students and the focus of their attention but also provides “access” to transformative or
(re)elaborative processes that could not be realized without the aid of such speech (Ferreira, 2000; Pinho, 2009;
Pinho & Lima, 2010; Quast, 2009a, 2009b). Ultimately, egocentric speech provides clues regarding the intense
work performed in the attempt to appropriate knowledge. These clues facilitate a better understanding of the
process of knowledge creation, indicate actions that must be redirected and enable the recognition of important
moments of intervention, while contributing to the development of children. In addition, understanding such
speech would help us understand how learners react to pedagogical efforts and why they react in certain ways and
not others.
For some educators, the persistence of egocentric speech would be pathological and require the child’s referral to
a specialist. However, for scholars such as Ferreira (2000), Pinho (2009), Quast (2009a) and Cavaton (2010), it is
precisely the non-occurrence of private speech that could indicate educational gaps or the failure of the activities
or tasks performed in the classroom (either because they had become automated or because they did not provide a
consistent level of challenge and therefore result in self-regulation problems). The lack of private speech could
also indicate that the assigned tasks are so difficult that the learner cannot perform them without the aid of another
person. Thus, the emergence (or not) of egocentric speech can provide the teacher with clues that can be used to
verify whether activities or proposed tasks are consistent with the level of the students. According to these studies,
another factor that could inhibit egocentric speech would be a high level of regimentation by the teacher.
Furthermore, these studies on egocentric speech indicate the importance and possibilities of listening to the child
during the process of knowledge construction in interaction. Instead of interrupting, the teacher should realize that
these moments are fundamental for the development of the student's intelligence.
International Journal of Humanities and Social Science
Vol. 4, No. 8; June 2014
In view of the previously mentioned researchers, the educator would therefore be responsible for being aware of
this phenomenon because not perceiving or ignoring this wealth of inner activity would result in a disastrous
stimulus to hyperactivity and poor concentration as well as contribute to creating difficulties for the literacy
process, which should begin in the near future.
The initial question remains whether reprehending the child in the midst of egocentric speech could harm to the
child’s development. Based on the linguistic research of Lier-De Vitto (1994, 1997) and the role played by
monologues (and considering that the study of egocentric language originates in the study of monologues), one of
the most significant implications is that the censorship of such monologues could have consequences for the
dialogical and discursive determination of language in the constitution of the individual.
Thus, the importance of considering and valuing the needs and communicative intentions of the child as well as
the child’s active role in the joint construction of knowledge is evident. This insight helps us reflect on the
development of school practices in early childhood education.
5. Conclusions
Thus, based on the literature review, researchers unanimously support the relevance of egocentric speech to
understanding key aspects of child development. Primarily as a result of the epistemological question that
differentiates Vygotsky's and Piaget's theories, it is evident that in general, reprehending the egocentric speech of
children would have cognitive and affective implications. According to Vygotsky, these implications occur
because despite not playing the role of communication, egocentric speech plays a prominent role in affectivity and
fulfills a personal function as an agent of thinking. Thus, the egocentric language that accompanies a child's
activity is linked to the child’s need for planning, sequencing and problem solving. Conceivably, the subject as
postulated in cultural-historical psychology is a product of the development of physical and mental cognitive and
affective processes, which are internal (constituted in the subject’s history) and external (related to the social
situations of development in which the subject is involved). Within the dialectical interplay of various genetic
plans (phylogeny, sociogenesis, ontogeny and microgenesis), the constitution of each individual subject occurs. In
this sense, the immersion of human subjects in social practices and relationships defines more complex emotions
that are more subjected to self-regulatory processes conducted by the intellect. The cognitive and affective
processes, which are the modes of thinking and feeling, are replete with social concepts, relationships and
practices, which constitute them as historical and cultural phenomena. Based on the educational implications that
underlie these assumptions, egocentric language must be recognized in its nature and function by parents and
teachers and should not be reprehended because it is considered a healthy and adaptive manifestation that is
focused on problem solving and overcoming obstacles. Reprehension could inhibit or impair the child’s cognitive
and affective performance.
Conversely, for Piaget, there are more explicit factors that affect the coefficient of egocentrism rather than the
consequences that result from reprehending the egocentric speech of the child because this type of language is not
a determining factor for cognitive development. That is, according to Piaget (1964/2006), verbal expression does
not explain the development of intelligence. It is only a reflection of thought and a necessary but insufficient
factor for the cognitive development of the individual. Egocentric speech – as verbal expression only – does not
create representation and is not directly responsible for the formation of thought. However, it is already socially
prepared as a whole and contains a set of cognitive tools that can be applied to thinking. This view explains, for
example, that as a child becomes increasingly social, egocentric language can disappear – and not the contrary –
as the child becomes increasingly explicit and understandable to others. Relationships of unilateral respect and
mutual respect, the community of interests that the child shares with his or her companions and adult intervention
are examples of such factors, all of which are associated with the moral realm. Furthermore, according to this
view, one can recognize in Piagetian theory traces of the cognitive or intellectual implications caused by
reprehending egocentric speech because affectivity represents the “fuel” of a subject’s behaviors throughout the
educational process. Thus, such implications would relate to the educational practices that result from the
epistemological conceptions of teachers because these practices involve the decision to reprehend a child for
using his or her egocentric speech. Above all, all the issues of active and authority-based education are involved
here because all of the relationships of unilateral and mutual respect with respect to adult intervention are present
(see the preceding examples of factors that affect the coefficient of egocentrism as related to the moral realm).
© Center for Promoting Ideas, USA
This surmise agrees with Piaget's theory, when, for example, he recognizes that there is great variation in the
measurement of egocentric speech according to environment and situation (Piaget, 1966).
Thus, it is important to recognize egocentric speech according to Piaget and Vygotsky. Although there are
differences in how these researchers conceive of the nature, functions and implications of such speech, for both it
is an phenomenon that is intrinsically linked to child development and that enables its understanding.
Based on Vygotsky's discussions of egocentric speech and inner language and the educational implications of
reprehending such language in the child, there are an increasing number of studies that seek to revise the
understanding of private speech. These studies focus in particular on the work of the Bakhtin Circle. Most of these
studies conceive of the speech directed toward the subject him- or herself as dialogical, while seeking to suppress
the internal/external, social/private dichotomy.
In seeking to answer the questions that motivated this study, we return to the concepts attributed to egocentric
speech and the implications of reprehending such language in the child, which we examined using data collected
based on open questions. Generally, the idea of egocentric speech in Vygotsky’s sense appeared in a highly
tentative manner in the representations of the teachers. Many of the teachers noted the manifestation of egocentric
speech in playing situations or activities. However, only in three responses was egocentric speech considered in
its role of monitoring the child's performance and as a means of genuine thinking, as advocated by Vygotsky
(2001, p. 54): “it begins to play the role of planning the solution for a task that arises in the behavior”.
Additionally, Vygotsky (1934/2001) acknowledges that egocentric speech does not always play this intellectual
function and that it can occur suddenly because he conceived such speech to mark a transitional stage in the
development from inner to external language. Nevertheless, it was evident that the majority of the teachers did not
recognize egocentric speech as an instrument of thought in the manner in which it is described by Vygotsky.
Therefore, there were few representations that covered the quality of egocentric speech as a (cognitive) regulator
of the child's behavior. Moreover, only one statement related such speech to the regulation of internal processes in
symbolic play Through the literature review, it was possible to analyze the importance of egocentric speech and
its implications for development and education. Additionally, there are studies that facilitate a discussion on
different aspects of egocentric speech. At the center of this discussion are two major theorists (Piaget and
Vygotsky) and others, such as Bakhtin. Using the multidimensional aspect of the social representations theory
(Jodelet, 2001), it was possible to focus the results of this study according to different aspects of egocentric
speech as a phenomenon of representation. Therefore, after entering the conceptual world of the interviewed
teachers, the analysis of the interviews confirmed the initial hypothesis: except for a few exceptions, most of the
teachers’ representations were subjectively closer to common-sense views than to the concepts found in the
relevant psychological theories. However, regarding the implications of reprehending a child’s use of egocentric
speech, surprisingly, when the teachers could perceive consequences, the consequences were more related to the
affective aspect (which had not been intended) than to the moral and cognitive fields. Nevertheless, the data in
general expose the weakness of formal and institutional learning, particularly teacher-training courses, in the
construction of investigated knowledge. In addition, the data reveal a need to rethink the emphasis that has been
place on such learning in undergraduate courses and the academic realm as well as its practical application.
It remains necessary to ask why the results of the fieldwork have revealed so strikingly the gap between the
understanding of egocentric speech by those who encounter it in everyday school life and the academic studies
and discussions in this regard. In sum, it is important to recognize and understand the aspects of egocentric speech
addressed in the work of Vygotsky and Piaget. For both scholars, egocentric speech is intrinsically linked to the
development of the child, which can become closer to its knowledge. Above all, this study has enabled us to infer
the limits and the scope of teacher-training courses with respect to egocentric speech.
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